I know for a fact that the fastest way to cause me to change from normal Andy to Jack Nicholson in The Shinning Andy, is to take away my music (that's right my arch-enemies, the secret is out there! Come at me! My secret underground mole man army is WAITING FOR YOU!). Anyone who knows me knows that music is such a central part of my life, an overwhelmingly huge part of my life. These modern times in which we live in are quite interesting for anyone with unquenchable thirst for music.
Two weeks ago, Beats Music was launched, a new streaming service from the company that makes the headphones everyone seems to love. Personally, I'm not a fan of the headphones, but there is so much chatter on various websites I frequent, that I found myself singing up for the free seven day trial. This is where the duality of The Music Conundrum begins. Here's the first part of this duality. Music is in my blood, and it always has been.
You want evidence? There exists a home movie from 1988, I was three years old, and I'm playing in the backyard with some kids from the neighborhood. On this tape, my mother is heard telling another mother, “You know when Andy gets up in the morning, he doesn't want to go potty, but the first thing he wants to do is listen to music.” That's how deep it runs in me. This is where the idea of Beats Music catches my eye. For $10 a month, you can listen to an unlimited amount of commercial free music. 80% of which has curated by actual, hardcore, music loving humans just like you.
The curated part is what impressed me most, as I was putting the app through it's paces, I searched for Harry Nilsson. Beats Music's “Intro to Nilsson” playlist was 80% the same as my “Andy's Guide to Harry” mix CD I made a few months ago. There's a Tom Hank's dance party mix, and Bruce Springsteen has a “Guide to Southern Soul” mix. You can download these playlists to your device and listen to them as much as you want, off line.
At its basic, Beats Music is trying to be the Netflix of music, plus a never ending on-line record party. This is where the other part of the duality I feel begins. You don't own this music, you're, essentially “renting” it. So why does the idea of using that bother me, when using Netflix doesn't? I think it's because music is perhaps the most personal of all the medias. Music taps directly into our hearts and souls in a way that movies don't. I'm not saying that a movie can't have the same effect, but there's something more immediate, more intimate about music.
I also want artists to get paid, what's the royalty rate on Beats? How does that work? Is it like Spotify—which I don't use—and it's famously low $0.006 and $.0084 rate per song stream? Beats has some music people at the head of it, so I would hope that artists are gonna get a better shake. It would never stop me from buying new music, I can't stop that. But it could let me try out an album I'm on the fence about before I decide to jump into picking up that shinny record. You know me, I love my vinyl, and I love my indie record shops. I would never want them to go away, so perhaps this is just more an evolution in the idea of how to discover new music?
This is The Music Conundrum I'm faced with. The duality of my music loving self in full form. The one side, overwhelmed by the like minded curation, and the sheer volume of music right at my fingertips. The other, wondering if it's really worth it, and if the artists are getting their fair share of the pie. The app could very well become a supplement to an already music rich life. A great way to find new favorites, and know that I could always pull up what I wanted when I wanted.
As of this writing, my free trial hasn't ended yet. Will I make the leap into a subscriber? I'm honestly not sure. So many people are trying to navigate these new waters of a streaming music on demand service, and what they may mean for the future of the music industry. I'll say this much about Beats Music, it's the first one that's grabbed my attention, so much so, I had to write about it. Again, will it replace going to a local record store? No. Will it replace my record collection? Hell no! What it could be, however, is a chance to satisfy almost every musical whim with the flick of a digital button. That excites me, but I want to make sure it's the right way of going about it.